A small team of 56 people with a broad range of skills cannot possibly look after some of the nation’s most iconic spaces and plan for its future. But a small team of 56 people with the support of an excellent Board, our national cultural institution partners and wonderful collaborators such as the talented carillonists in the region, representatives from active transport groups, environment groups, universities, community representatives, creative developers, landscape architects, event managers and promoters and amazing volunteers certainly can. We are also very lucky to have hardworking and responsive contractors to help us manage our land on a day to day basis and help us manage our assets for the longer term. Together, as a much larger and hard-working team, we care for the some of the most special places in the nation’s capital.
My first full financial year in the role has certainly given me a much deeper understanding of the context we work in, our role and the risks and pressures associated with delivering the outcomes we want to achieve. It has also allowed me to form meaningful relationships and partnerships with many people who are as passionate about Canberra as we are in the NCA.
So what happened in 2018/19? Let’s begin with the National Capital Exhibition. To celebrate the completion of the newly refurbished exhibition we held a preview event and special panel discussion asking the audience “Has Canberra evolved into the city that Walter and Marion envisaged?” Hosted by Amanda Whitley, featuring well known panel members Chris Uhlmann, Dr Dianne Firth and Catherine Carter, the sell-out audience engaged in a robust discussion and were thrilled with the new design, layout and information featured in the redeveloped exhibition. And yes, we concluded that Walter and Marion would largely be pleased with modern Canberra.
The exhibition was officially reopened in September 2019 by Senator Zed Seselja. It tells the story of Canberra and its evolution over time from the 1920’s Griffin Plan to the city as it has evolved today. The feedback from schools and visitors to the new exhibition is extremely positive with the take out experience being the new and improved model of Canberra, the centerpiece of the exhibition. We are now turning our attention to the Regatta Point restaurant redevelopment. This will be the next piece of this precinct puzzle. Works to activate and refurbish and refit this superior destination and product offering will be carried out in 2019/2020.
The national capital continues to be the place for important national events, celebrations and community fun. On Reconciliation Day we were privileged to start the day with Aunty Violet Sheridan welcoming us to her country and her family providing a solemn morning smoking ceremony at Reconciliation Place. With attendance at this event growing in numbers each year, the NCA hopes to work closely with Reconciliation Australia and the ACT Government to mark this important day in the nation’s history in years to come.
Other events that continue to grow in attendance are our Star Wars themed “May the 4th be with you” and our Annual Christmas Carols held at the National Carillon on Aspen Island in Lake Burley Griffin. These events continue to be popular for both locals and tourists and we hope to be able to continue to grow the recognition and awareness of this iconic Canberra attraction.
This year we started planning a small capital works program to enhance the landscaping and visitor experience to Aspen Island. We organised the procurement of two additional bells for the instrument – a G and D bell from the famous Taylor Bells Foundry in the United Kingdom. The bells will enhance the musicality of the Carillon and make it fit for purpose for international music events. The G Bell will weigh over 5 tonne and the D bell will be able to fit in a pocket. Both will be installed prior to the start of the National Carillon’s 50th year birthday on 26 April 2020.
Blundells Cottage on Lake Burley Griffin received a facelift this year as well. Conservation works were completed to restore the slab shed and the cottage’s surrounding landscape was upgraded with the inclusion of interpretive spaces of what was formally a fireplace and kitchen area. A Gala Day was held on 13 October and the cottage was formally reopened on 30 October 2018. The launch was attended by direct descendants of the Blundells family, who were extremely complimentary about the restoration works, especially to the slab shed.
An important piece of public infrastructure officially opened on 17 January was the Sailability Jetty, a bespoke jetty for people with a disability to use to get in and out of sailing boats located in Yarralumla Bay. The jetty was built by the NCA is in use by Sailability ACT. We expect that the summer months will see the jetty being used to its full capacity. We refurbished the public jetty at Acton West and reopened it for public use this year. And during the Enlighten festival the NCA provided a ferry loop within the Central Basin so people could see the lights from Lake Burley Griffin. We think it is important for everyone to have a range of opportunities to enjoy the lake.
Commonwealth Park saw a number of improvements this year – from the installation of new and improved park furniture, to the initiation of a flying fox management strategy to a range of new events utilising the park. We worked closing with ACT Government major event organisers throughout the year to enhance the use, care and maintenance of all the event spaces on national land for the benefit of Canberrans and visitors.
As well as protecting the heritage values within the nation’s capital on a day to day basis, the NCA has a keen eye to the future. This is exemplified by the project we are working on with the community to develop our Tree Management Policy. A city blessed with a wonderful urban treescape and often referred to as ‘the bush capital’, Canberra’s tree canopy within designated areas and throughout National Capital Estate is something that not only needs to be retained, but we also have to look at what the future might look like. The policy will look at what this means for the city and how the NCA as custodians of this treescape can ensure it is still here for future generations.
It has been a very busy year and I would like to thank the Minister the Hon Nola Marino MP, my Chair Terry Weber and the NCA Board and the dedicated and committed NCA staff and volunteers for the support they have given me throughout the year. An internal restructure in March 2019 saw some members of well-established teams undergo changes to reporting lines. Can I take this opportunity to thank all staff for their input and help to shape this change.
Throughout the year, I have watched people in various sections and at all grades and levels within our organisation shine and show incredible leadership on important projects and on day to day matters. The NCA’s extended senior leadership team and indeed all of its teams are full of talented and enthusiastic people who proudly call themselves public servants. All of your achievements and accomplishments are much appreciated. I have only been able to touch on a few of them here. I am excited and looking forward to working with everyone again in 2019/20.